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Fast Cars & Racy Watches

On race day, seconds count.

The legendary automaker Henry Ford once said: “Auto racing began five minutes after the second car was built.” Ford had an excellent point. The human need for speed has been powering motor races since the dawn of the automobile. The thrill of speed, the roar of engines, and the sweet smell of fuel and asphalt can be exhilarating to experience. Nothing beats the visceral adrenaline rush of being at a race track on race day. Just ask any motor racing fan about that.

It’s no surprise that something as downright sexy and exciting as motor racing has long been a magnet for watchmakers. Couple that with the precision and striving for innovation that is central to both racing cars and watchmaking, and you have a match made in heaven. And so we will dedicate this article to all things racing, with a focus on two of our own racing-inspired watches, as well as three racing watches we also love. Start your engines, folks!

A little racing watch history

It’s believed that the world’s first motor race, the “Competition for Horseless Carriages,” known in French as the Concours du 'Petit Journal' Les Voitures sans Chevaux, took place between Paris and Rouen in 1894. Ironically, the race was heavily marred by poor timekeeping. Things had improved by the early 1900s, thanks to legendary watchmakers such as Switzerland’s Omega and Rolex crafting chronographs specifically for racing. In on the racing chronograph action too was British watchmaker, Graham Watches, which had been in business since 1695, and whose founder, George Graham, is considered the ‘father of the chronograph’.

Clockmaker George Graham

By the 1920s and 1930s, watches were at the pinnacle of motor sport. Legendary British race driver Sir Malcolm Campbell, who broke the land speed world records nine times between 1924 and 1936, insisted on always wearing his Rolex Oyster timepiece. After setting one record, Campbell sent a complimentary letter to Rolex. He stated how he’d worn their watch under what he termed “somewhat strenuous conditions” [read: driving at over 200 miles per hour] with typical British understatement. In fact, Campbell admired his Rolex so much he refused an offer of a free watch from the watchmaker!

Chronographs had become essential at all motor races by the 1940s. It’s no surprise, since timekeeping was critically important in motor racing - and remains so. After all, how else can lap times and racing times be recorded accurately? Racing watches had come a long way

Racing watch essentials

The ‘ABCD’ or most typical features of a racing watch include:

  • Angled Case: Although not so common now, racing watches used to have a slightly angled case, which made reading them easier at awkward angles during racing.
  • Breathing straps: racing watch straps have traditionally been made of rubber, canvas, or perforated leather, i.e., those materials that can ‘breathe’ easier when worn on the high-stressed wrists of racing drivers.
  • Chronograph: most watches made specifically for motor racing are chronographs, given their separate stopwatch function. Start and stop pushers are used to record lap times and are usually set at the 2 and 4 o’clock positions.
  • Dial: most racing watches have high-contrast dials; theoretically so that they can be read at high speeds, although that might be difficult when hurtling around in excess of 150mph!

 

Some racing watches also feature a tachymeter bezel, which allows the racer to make speed calculations. Endurance racers, such as rally drivers, are more likely to have watches with these specific bezels.

Learn how a tachymeter bezel works

Our racing-themed watches

We at LIV Watches are passionate about the watches we design and make. It’s a dedication to craftsmanship and attention to detail akin to the dedication to engineering and innovation of those who make the most beautiful and fastest racing cars. We’d like to feature two of our watch models that speak to that synergy between watchmaking and car racing.

LIV GX-AC Signature Orange

We love this automatic chronograph and we believe with good reason: it features one of the most respected movements in the watch world, the ETA Valjoux 7750 with 25 jewels. The movement is encased in a hand-finished case made of premium 316L stainless steel. The watch also has an anti-reflective coated sapphire crystal, which provides maximum scratch resistance and clarity in reading time.

LIV GX-AC Signature Orange

A superb aspect of this racing watch is the screwed-down exhibition case back. This superb design concept allows you to view the movement’s intricate feats of miniature engineering in all their glory. Another noteworthy and eye-catching feature of our GX-AC Signature Orange is the intricate 3D, multi-layer dial. Hand-applied indexes ensure that the time display is even more exquisite to the eye. Supple silicone is the perfect material for the bracelet of this racing watch, as are the other breathable, premium materials that can also be chosen to adorn your wrist. This collection is a numbered limited-edition of just 1000 watches per color.

This is what one of our ecstatic customers, Christopher S. from Chile, had to say about his LIV GX-AC Signature Orange in an effusive message we particularly enjoyed: “LIV 'n' la vida loca! What can I say, on first impressions simply stunning a work of art. Going to have to test drive this baby for a bit to get a full impression but I'm sure I won't be disappointed. Also exemplary experience, attentive to detail and prompt. Gracias mis amigos, rock en LIV”.

The Bro Bible website was equally complimentary (dare we say, ecstatic) in its review of this collection from LIV Watches: “Sparing nothing when it comes to quality of materials, fit, finish or design, the GX AC is an industry-best automatic chronograph, meaning you get one of the top timepieces on the planet without dropping a ton of money…To put it bluntly, this is a watch that’ll be passed down for generations”.

We certainly agree that the GX-AC Signature Orange could become a treasured heirloom for you and your family.

LIV Rebel-DDC Aspen

We love this watch so much, that we’ve already featured it before in our article on ‘Tough Watches For Tough Jobs’. As much as we know this watch is perfect for the high-stress, high-perfection work of, say, a chef, we also know it’s even more perfect as a racing watch. You’ll soon understand why. The Rebel DDC Aspen boasts a high-quality Swiss movement, the super-accurate Ronda Z60, 3-hand quartz chronograph caliber, as well as sub-dials with date and day of the week, 30-minute counter, and 60-second counter. Importantly for the racing enthusiast, the 25-jewel movement ensures that this automatic watch is accurate and precise.

It also boasts a high-grade sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating that provides maximum scratch resistance and excellent clarity for time reading. The Rebel-DDC model is nestled inside a hand-finished and polished 316L stainless steel case. The watch has a design feature that is a hallmark of the design aesthetic we have at LIV Watches: a multi-level dial with 3D effect that is truly alluring to the eye. It has a stunning skeleton case-back, which means the wearer can view and admire the movement’s mini-engineered intricacy at all times. Only 500 pieces of this model were made as a Limited Edition, with a unique serial number and limited edition number engraved on its case back.

This is what one of our customers, Paul G. from the US, had to say about this unique watch: “Very desirable watch. I have quite a few watches and this one stands out. I was at a party the other day and two people saw the watch and one ordered it on the spot. I have 3 LIV watches already and want to increase the collection as they create more.”

Three race-themed watches we love

We of course love our watches the most. However, the racing world has inspired some of the most iconic watches of the modern era. Here are three of the very best, in our humble opinion:

Heuer Monaco 1133

Long before it became TAG Heuer, Heuer was one of the leading creators of racing watches. By the 1950s and 60s Heuer had developed the highly-popular Autavia and Carrera racing watch collections, which were coveted by racing drivers and watch collectors alike. However, it was the Monaco that was the watchmaker’s most famous racing watch collection. And that was all thanks due to its highly visible guest appearance on the wrist of Hollywood actor Steve McQueen in the popular 1971 film, Le Mans. He was also an avid and accomplished racing driver, having competed in various professional races.

Steve McQueen in Le Mans

One cannot overestimate what a huge movie star McQueen was at the time. He had just completed two of the biggest blockbusters of 1970, the action pic Bullitt, famous for its car chases at break-neck speed up and down the hills of San Francisco, and The Thomas Crown Affair, a romantic caper opposite the acclaimed and beautiful actress, Faye Dunaway. Don Nunley was the property master on Le Mans who recalled how McQueen chose the Heuer Monaco 1133 for the film. He reminisced about how McQueen chose what was the most unusual watch of those he had to choose from. It had an oddly square-shaped case and colorful dial, which was unusual for racing watches.

Although Heuer had released the watch at Baseworld in 1969, it was McQueen wearing it in that famous racing film that launched it into the stratosphere among watch lovers. It was another racing driver, the Swiss Jo Siffert, who had suggested the Heuer watch to McQueen, who was a good friend of his. The watch, with its bold square design and eye-catching dial with chequered flag racing motif, remains one of the most beloved and iconic racing watches to this day.

In 2009, TAG Heuer issued a 40th anniversary re-edition of the Monaco

Omega Speedmaster Racing Co-Axial Chronograph

The Omega Speedmaster is undoubtedly one of the renowned Swiss watchmaker’s most iconic timepieces. It was an Omega Speedmaster that was famously worn by the astronaut Buzz Aldrin during the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969, and which became the first watch worn on the moon. However, although popular with NASA’s astronauts at the time, the Speedmaster collection was originally launched in 1957 as a racing watch for professional racing drivers and racing enthusiasts. It was in the spirit of that racing tradition that this updated version was launched by Omega to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Speedmaster.

This latest Omega Speedmaster model is powered by a Co-Axial calibre 3330. It sports a gray panda dial with black sub-dial, with each sub-dial having the distinctive and fetching Clous de Paris pattern. The chronograph and standard timekeeping functions on the dial are easily differentiated, with all chronograph functions in white and standard timekeeping displays in bright orange. The sub-dials are also slightly bigger than usual, making them easier to read at the race track. Edging the dial is a tachymetric bezel in matte black. The black rubber strap has a cool tire-thread pattern, which heightens the watch’s raciness.

Omega Speedmaster, circa 1967

Of course, we can never forget the most famous racing watch of them all, the Rolex Daytona with panda dial. NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon is famously a huge fan and ambassador of this watch, as were sporting legends such as American golfer Arnold Palmer and ski champion Jean-Claude Killy of France. The Daytona worn by Paul Newman made international headlines when it sold in 2017 for an astounding $17.8-million, at that time the highest price ever paid at auction for a watch. We only didn’t include more about that classic racing Rolex in this article because we already wrote about it in our article about panda watches.

Racing watches continue to inspire watchmakers and racing fans alike. In that spirit, Formula 1 legend and seven-time world champion, Michael Schumacher, once said: “Just being a mediocre driver has never been my ambition. That's not my style.” We know exactly what he means - mediocrity is not our style either. That’s why we at LIV Watches strive for perfection with the racing-inspired watches we design and make. The same can be said for all the watches we make.



About the Author

Esti Chazanow, Co-Founder at LIV Watches
Esti's passion for men's watches led her to co-found LIV Watches—a microbrand dedicated to connecting watch collectors with high quality, limited edition, Swiss Made timepieces at prices they can afford—and the rest is horological history.

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